Many cancer patients claimed to have experienced weight loss. Weight loss may even be the first notable symptom of the disease. Forty (40%) percent of cancer patients claim to have experienced unexplained weight loss. Clinicians will tell you weight loss from cancer is different from other types of weight loss. Doctors refer to it as “cachexia” (wasting of the body). Cachexia causes increased metabolism, muscle loss, fatigue, and decreased quality of life. 

For months I experienced fatigue. Then all of a sudden, nothing. Little or no back pain. No neck pain. Little or no knee pain. Little or no muscle cramps. However, somewhere between last week and this morning, I lost 12 pounds. This loss was not a matter of choice, as in I decided some fancy-schmancy diet. Neither did I embark on a 200-mile hike, bike 50 miles each day, or train for an Olympic marathon. Instead, I did what I always did, I came home, made dinner, and watched the Cubs. (Last night’s destruction came courtesy of the Cleveland Indians.) I suppose I could have looked for my 12 pounds. Then again, maybe I lost 1.7 pounds per day, and I failed to notice. Either way, they were gone. 

Cancer specialists indicate that sudden weight loss of three pounds or more should be reported. In theory, such a dramatic weight loss could be from poor appetite, diarrhea, or dehydration. However, statistically speaking, patients with gastric, pancreatic, and lung cancers report cancer-related weight loss than those suffering from prostate or colon cancer. I have even heard of cancer patients who tried losing weight via conventional methods, like Weight Watchers. What made the weight disappear was cancer. None of the above is me. I weighed myself a week ago and coincidentally weighed myself a week later. Twelve pounds disappeared. But rather than contacting physicians, should I celebrate?

I still hope my biggest annual celebration remains a birthday, as opposed to diagnosis day, an (at the time) non-cancerous tumor. Maybe there’s hope cancer didn’t cause a 12-pound shrinkage. Or, I can be like Nina Riggs, who in her memoir, “The Bright Hour,” retells her commiseration with a friend receiving cancer treatment. Both envisioned starting a business called ‘Damaged Goods’ specializing in morbid thank-you cards. One such card might fit.

  • “Thank you for the taco casserole. It worked even better than my stool softeners.”

Yeah, that’s me. Of course, it’s not my body eating away. It was a casserole. Right? Of course. Such logic has one fallacy: No matter how small, all tumors must tap the bloodstream to draw required nutrients. Yet, my last batch of blood work (performed in May) was normal. There was no diabetes. No COVID, no abnormal white blood cell count, no nothing. “Go forth ye young man and populate the earth,” my physician postulated. (Oh, okay. She actually said, “See you in six months.”) However, working in healthcare IT, I know of various cancers – ovarian, liver, stomach, pancreatic, and esophageal – that might not show on blood tests. That still leaves me at ‘weight.’

For most of my life, I was repeatedly instructed to lose weight. It didn’t matter what I did, how much exercise I performed, or activity performed; some asshole always managed to hint I could lose weight. So, when my doctor biannually instructs me to lose weight, I do not say, “I already know about weight loss.” I never told her I was once in such good shape that I could hike ten miles, conduct a military operation, hike back, be home by 8:00 PM and grab a beer. I never told her how kids made my body image an emotional burden. I never once replied that my weight had never actually been a health issue (up to now anyway.) Why? Because I didn’t think she’d believe me. At this point in life, I am 61. And like an old food package sitting upon a grocery shelf, I am well past the ‘Do Not Sell Date.” So, 12 ponds mean little.

Years ago, I made a conscious decision not to focus upon weight, calorie counting, or glucose monitoring. I deleted any food/weight apps (although I think the Samsung Health app is excellent), stopped recording every little thing I ate and purchased clothing that was not only professional but great looking. I was tired of talking about image, body, fats, good cholesterol, bad cholesterol, sugars, or proteins. Instead, (as the Dos Equis commercial says)I ‘stayed thirsty.’ Thirsty for life versus thirsty for an image. Am I now paying the price? Who knows?

Two years ago, I was told my life was either going to end or suck. Thus far, I am not simply alive. I am living. I think there are more important things to worry about in life (or as a friend might say, ‘more important things to be pissed off about.’) As I sit on the other side of the ‘…you have two years of … etc., etc., blah, blah...’ I have taken time to consider how the last several years unfolded. I am truly amazed that no single blood lab result was abnormal. Lab tests never detected my tumor, my osteoarthritis, nor Parkinson’s. 

I close with a proverbial Islamic phrase I’ve quoted before.

One day, the prophet Mohammed saw a man leaving his camel without tethering it.

Mohammed questioned him as to why. The Bedouin replied that he was placing his trust in Allah and had no need to tie the camel. The prophet Mohammed then replied: 

“Trust in Allah, but tie your camel.”

So, I am going to ‘stay thirsty,’ but I will call my doctor.